Meet me in Monaco 5th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon

For the Grace Kelly Blogathon this year, I wanted to do something a bit special and review a recently published novel involving her called Meet me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb.

Meet Me In Monaco

I was a bit skeptical about reading the book, as I didn’t particularly enjoy Ms. Gaynor’s novel, The Girl from the Savoy but there was something that magnetized me into reading this novel: The presence of Grace Kelly.

Meet me in Monaco is set against the 1950s French Riviera. Our main character Sophie is a perfumer who learned the trade from her beloved, but deceased father, while the leading man is James (Jim) Henderson, a British photographer who is re-adjusting to life after WWII. It’s a chance first meeting for Sophie and James when Grace Kelly hides in Sophie’s shop trying to evade the paparazzi- and it sets off a chain of events that connect these three characters for over 30 years. 

The narrative in the book begins during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival with the main portion taking place during 1956 with Grace’s courtship and wedding to Prince Rainier. Grace fans are in for a real treat as several things are mentioned that her fans will get a kick out of: her dog Oliver (a gift from Mr Cary Grant!), her taste in French perfume, the first meeting of Rainier, and even the voyage to Monaco. However, readers will also come to love the fictional characters in this novel that really drive the romance plot. James to me, in my view of fictional characters, is the dream guy- a British photographer who’s a romantic at heart. He’s a WWII vet and there’s a bit of a backstory with that along with his ex-wife, Marjorie, and his daughter whom he adores (Her name is Emily- so personally, that was awesome). Sophie was also a likable character and someone you can identify with; I just wish she would have been more courageous at making some business decisions. However, what I enjoyed most about her was that she always kept her father’s memory alive- it was sweet that whenever she was down, she always remembered his advice.

What makes this book believable is the focus is not on Grace Kelly. We are not getting the inside details of her voyage to Monaco or her wedding plans, rather we are hearing about it through the perspective of the main characters. This style of writing makes Grace’s presence very real. Because she only pops up in person about 4 times, the reader becomes just as excited to see her as James and Sophie do. Its really fun too because there are some passages that appear in letter or telegram style. There’s even a few magazine and newpaper sections written in the book, and that makes it really authentic.

SLIGHT SPOILER: The one problem I have with the novel is the 26 year time jump. There are so many questions that never get answered because of this, and it makes the ultimate ending feel short changed.

Meet me in Monaco was given a bunch of accolades this year with a reviewer calling it a “French bon-bon of a book”. I can’t say I argue and even if your not into “lite” historical fiction books, you can appreciate the Grace Kelly connection. It’s  a very breezy read and just an overall cute book!

Click here to go to the Author’s website and learn more about the book!

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Be sure to check out my co-hosts pages of Day 2 and Day 3 and check out Day 1 of the Grace Kelly Blogathon! I want to thank Ginnie for hosting and coming up with this marvelous event! I am always happy to be invited to co-host with you! To Samantha- It was so fun joining you this year for this event! I love being part of this with you two fabulous ladies and I say it every year, but I truly believe Grace Kelly would be flattered with all of the love!!

And to all my readers and fellow writers- Thanks again so much for participating. Without the audience there is no reason for me to write- you all keep me going!!!

Book Review: Merton of the Movies

Here on The Flapper Dame, I’m always open to try something new, and today it’s fun to say my first movie related book review for my site is Merton of the Movies!

(LARB BOOKS)

Written by Harry Leon Wilson, Merton of the Movies was first published 100 years ago in 1919 in the Saturday Evening Post. It was published in book form in 1922. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its initial publication, LARB books is republishing the classic in a new edition that will feature an introduction by Tom Lutz and forward by Mitra Jouhari. The edition will be released By LARB books on November 19, 2019.

After reading the book, I am surprised the film adaptations have not been well known to the general public, as the plot has the making of a bon fide hit. The book has been adapted in radio, film, as a play, and as a musical. The movie versions were made in 1924 as a silent that has been lost, in 1932 under the title, Make me a Star, and in 1947 under its original name with Red Skelton in the lead.

Merton of the Movies (1947 film).jpg
1947 release poster (wikipedia)

The story of Merton at the Movies is the template for the “Hollywood Story” trope. In the beginning, Merton Gill of Simsbury, Illinois, is just a sales clerk for Gashwiler’s general store. But Merton has a love affair with all things related to Hollywood and the movies. He decides to take it one step further by taking acting lessons and setting out for Hollywood. What happens next is what all Hollywood newbies discover: The truth of the glamourous facade (for starters, Merton’s favorite actress, Beulah Baxter of the Perils of Pauline serials, has actually been married three times and does not do her own stunts!!!).

After failing auditions and interviews, Merton’s real big break takes off with a chance encounter with Flips Montague (real name: Sarah Nevada Montague) – a comedienne and stunts woman who has been in showbiz her entire life. She helps Merton financially and sets him up with her director friend Jeff Baird. From there, Merton (with a new alter-ego of Clifford Armytage) gets his big break through Baird and even falls in love with Flips.

The humor of all this and throughout the book is Merton wants to do drama and is a straight arrow in personality, but is forced into comedies for which he sees no humor in.

What I admired about this novel is the story, as its Hollywood behind the scenes. For a film industry so young at the time of publication, it really shows the beginnings of the craziness that would be more widely exposed in films such as Sunset Boulevard, The Bad and the Beautiful, and The Barefoot Contessa. I am amused by fictional Hollywood characters in works such this and the act of trying to figure out who their real life counterparts are.  I also really adored the character of Flips. She’s sassy and funny- maybe even more enjoyable than Merton in my opinion!

The element I disliked was the excess of narration. It dragged the story down, and I prefer to read more about the interactions of characters. It could have been at least 50 pages less had the narration not went on and on. Moreover, I couldn’t completely get into the humor- perhaps the author’s style isn’t something that personally clicks with me, but then again, I don’t have a typical sense of humor (I have been told I’ve got a dry sense of humor)

Overall, I was very humbled to be asked to write a review for the re-release and thank Alice and the team at LARB books for reaching out to me and sending me an e-copy of the book to review.

If you get a chance to read the book, whether you buy the upcoming copy or can get a hold of an older copy, it’s well worth it and a fascinating look at early 1920’s silent era Hollywood.

*ALL OPINIONS AND THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN. I was given an advanced e-copy to read curtsy of LARB books. Find out more about the re-release copy here.